LGBT+ campaigners in Tbilisi, Georgia called off a pride march on Monday after protestors opposed to the event stormed their office.
Activists launched five days of LGBT+ Pride celebrations last Thursday and had planned a “March for Dignity” on Monday in central Tbilisi, shrugging off criticism from the church and conservatives who said the event had no place in Georgia. The planned march was disrupted on Monday by counter protesters before it could begin.
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Video footage posted by LGBT+ activists showed protesters scaling their building to reach their balcony where they tore down rainbow flags and were seen entering the office of Tbilisi Pride. Other footage showed a journalist with a bloodied mouth and nose and a man on a scooter driving at journalists in the street. Police said that more than 50 journalists had been targeted in the violence. Campaigners said some of their equipment had been broken in the attack.
“No words can explain my emotions and thoughts right now. This is my working space, my home, my family today. Left alone in the face of gross violence,” LGBT activist Tamaz Sozashvili tweeted. The interior ministry, which said eight people were detained over the violence, had urged activists to abandon their march for security reasons. “We once again publicly call on the participants of ‘Tbilisi Pride’ to refrain from the ‘March of Dignity’ … due to the scale of counter-manifestations planned by opposing groups…” it said.
Several Western embassies in Georgia issued a joint statement condemning the attack and called on authorities to ensure freedom of speech and right to assembly. “Violence is simply unacceptable and cannot be excused,” the statement said. President Salome Zourabichvili, who visited the injured journalist, said the violence was a “violation of the core fabric of Georgia.”
“What happened is not the Georgia I know,” Zourabichvili, who ran as an independent, wrote on Twitter. “It’s not the Georgia based on its core values of tolerance.” In the lead up to the march, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said he viewed the march as “not reasonable”, saying it risked causing public confrontation and that it was not acceptable to most Georgians, the Civil Georgia media outlet reported.